Beauty and the Beast at the Wyvern
If it’s December then that means one thing: CHRISTMAS!! Oh – okay – TWO things – CHRISTMAS and the PANTOMIME. And everyone loves pantomime don’t they? Oh yes they do!! And we all love pantomime at the Wyvern Theatre.
And this season’s panto is Beauty and the Beast – and more of the origins of that story below. Yet again, the leading actors were largely unknown to me – which says everything about the TV that I do or don’t watch. So it was ‘Paul who?’ Anne Hegertey I was vaguely aware of from a quiz show that I’ve rarely watched. I won’t lie – my heart sank a little. But y’know what – she wasn’t half bad (and that’s not an attempt to damn with faint praise) and I rather enjoyed her turn as Fairy Flutterby.
Paul Burling did his impressionist thing – most of them were lost on me – and that’s not at all reflection of his impressionistic ability. For what it is a reflection of see above! The programme informs us that Paul learnt his craft as a holiday park entertainer. And that grounding shows. He turns in a sterling performance as French Frank.
Roger Wright as Professor Potage had an amazing voice! So good. And of course Eloise Lord is delightful in the role of Belle.
And #OBVS David Ashley is a terrific dame. But is he really tall and Paul Burling really short? ‘Cos there was a massive height difference. Which, TBF, added rather to the comedy.
The rest of the characters and of course the ensemble are all wonderful and work soooo hard. All-in-all it’s a delightful production that I’m pleased to recommend.
On reflection though – and this isn’t at all a criticism of the performers or the production – it all seemed a bit …. low-key. As panto goes that is!
In previous years, even when taking my seat, the excitement of the children was already at fever pitch. And that was before it got started! With this one the nerf guns were minimal, there were no massive balls bouncing around the auditorium etc, etc. A reflection of the times in which we’re living? I dunno …
Anyroad up and be that as it may – we had a brilliant time and thoroughly enjoyed all the performances. So if you’ve not booked yet – then do. It’s a fun evening.
The elements of panto
The art of Pantomime forms part of a long and noble British theatrical tradition. Each genre with its own particular elements. So each and every panto you see has in it, in some form or another, the following five stock characters:
- The evil villain
- The damsel in distress
- The hero
- The Principal boy – sometimes the same as 3 – traditionally played by a girl but that doesn’t happen so much now. Interesting piece on that here.
- The pantomime dame – always played by a man.
Then there’s comedy characters, a panto animal, a slapstick scene, audience participation – and a theatre full of children at a fever pitch of excitement!
Some or all of those and more occur in every panto across the land and this one is no exception. You know exactly what you’re going to get and that is, of course, the absolute joy of the thing. The tradition of it all. And isn’t it the best way to introduce children to the joys of live theatre?
I’m really passionate about pantomime because it is often the first introduction for a child to theatre, and if that child has a great experience at a pantomime they will continue to come year after year.John Barrowman
If you want to know more about the history of pantomime this page from the Victoria and Albert museum is worth a peek.
About Beauty and the Beast
Now … it may or not surprise you to know that the story of Beauty and the Beast existed looooong before Disney got hold of it. And the same is true of most things TBH – The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pochahontas and the entire Disney canon.
So the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, as this BBC article tells, has its basis on a French fairytale, La Belle et la Bete, by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, published in 1740. It in turn took its inspiration from the real-life tale of Petrus Gonsalvus and his bride-to-be Catherine. Petrus it seemed, suffered from hypertrichosis, which made thick, dark hair grow all over his body and face.
The court servant Catherine, so the story goes, was quite unfazed by the hirsute nature of her suitor. Together they produced four sons – two with the condition and two without – and three daughters who also had it. Their combined hairiness made them celebrities around Europe.